UN high commissioner raises concerns over violence in Papua

Margareth S. Aritonang and Nethy Dharma Somba in Jayapura/Jakarta/The Jakarta Post

Jayapura/Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has visited Indonesia and has raised concerns over the "ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua."

The UN official said she was informed that the police had conducted crackdowns on mass demonstration across Papua since April 30 as Papuans were preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of Papua becoming a part of Indonesia.

"I urge the government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses," she said in a statement released on Friday. "After my official visit to Indonesia last November, I was disappointed to see violence and abuses continuing in Papua."

Two Papuans were reportedly shot dead during a clash between protesters and police officers in the city of Sorong on April 30, a day before the commemoration of Papua's integration into Indonesia on May 1. The victims have been identified as Abner Malagawak, 22, and Thomas Blesya, 22.

Following the clash in Sorong, the police also arrested six people in Ibdi Village in Biak regency for raising the Morning Star flag, a pro-independence symbol that is often used by the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM). The protesters were drawing attention the day Indonesia annexed the resource-rich region, according to the police.

West Papua Legislative Council deputy speaker Demianus Jimmy Idjie deplored the use of violence by the police in dispersing the group attempting to hoist the Morning Star flag. "Seeing these people's wounds, the shooters were not trying to disperse the rally, they were actually aiming at the protesters," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya denied allegations that the police had shot Abder and Thomas during the rally. The police, however, would investigate the allegations, he added.

He said that a team of police officers led by Papua Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw had been assigned to conduct the investigation.

"It's a hasty conclusion to condemn the police or the military as responsible for the deaths. There wasn't any dead bodies found so we have sent an investigative team to clarify such reports," Gede told the Post on Friday.

According to the police, the clash was inevitable after a group of local residents attacked a joint police-military patrol in Aimas at 00:30 a.m. local time (02:30 a.m. Jakarta time) as the patrol was securing the area due to the plan of a separatist group led by Isak Kalaibin to raise the Morning Star flag on May 1. Gede said that the officers fired warning shots before the clash.

However, according to a local resident, the security forces were to blame for the clash as they provoked the residents into defending themselves.

The UN's Pillay called on the Indonesian government to conduct a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into incidents of killings and torture in Papua and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"There has not been sufficient transparency in addressing human rights violations in Papua," she said. "I urge Indonesia to allow international journalists into Papua and to facilitate visits by the Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council."

House of Representatives Caucus on Papua chairman Yorrys Raweyai said suspicions between Papuans and security forces marked serious, ongoing injustices in Indonesia's easternmost province.

"The problems will never be solved unless the government grants authority to local residents to build their land," said Yorrys.